A final push for passage of child nutrition reauthorization in the House of Representatives on Dec. 1 is backed by Democratic leaders and produce advocates.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a Nov. 30 teleconference that nutrition reauthorization is the âright and moralâ thing to do and has a direct effect on U.S. national security and international competitiveness.
âWe cannot afford to ignore this challenge,â she said.
The produce industryâs top nutrition lobbyist was working on securing votes for passage of the measure, which will increase reimbursements for school lunches by six cents per meal and create nutrition standards for all food sold in schools.
âWe are all working very hard for passage,â said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president for nutrition and health at United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.
The bill, which is the Senate version of child nutrition reauthorization, will have to withstand Republican attempts to add amendments, which if successful would doom the legislation. Republican have resisted the cost of the measure and said it will add billions in federal outlays for school meals and snacks.
DiSogra said there were not enough votes in the House for a suspension of the rules â requiring two-thirds of members present â which would have allowed for expedited consideration and prevented attempts to add amendments.
A wildcard is that members who lost their seats must leave their offices by Nov. 30. DiSogra said it was unclear if those members â many of whom are Democrat â will be on hand to vote for the legislation when it is brought to the floor sometime on Dec. 1.
DiSogra said United Fresh has been working on child nutrition reauthorization for two-and-a-half years.
If the Senate bill doesnât pass the House, DiSogra said Republican lawmakers may want to extend current child nutrition programs by three years without increasing funding for school meals. That is why it important for the legislation to be passed now, she said.
âWe donât think we will ever get all these positive things again,â she said. âIncreasing the reimbursement rate was difficult this time and it will be impossible in the future.â
The reimbursement rate increase is seen as a critical step in pending U.S. Department of Agriculture rulemaking to bring school meals in line with federal dietary guidelines, DiSogra said.
âUSDA is ready to release the rule that says double the amount of fruit for breakfast and double the amount of fruits and vegetables for lunch besides all the other improvements and changes in the bill,â she said.
Those revisions will demand an increase in the reimbursement rate, she said.